Story by MCSA Carla Ocampo
Photo by MC3 Dugan Flynn

While on deployment Sailors are deprived of many things, such as spending holidays at home and spending time with family, but one thing Sailors will not have to miss this deployment is Catholic mass. Last week Sailors welcomed the newest addition to the Stennis religious ministries’ team, a Catholic chaplain.

Lt. Jose Bautista Rojas, Stennis’ first Catholic priest in more than two years, said he’s excited about working with Sailors for the first time in his career.

“I’m ecstatic, this is my first tour with the Navy and I can’t wait to get to know everybody,” said Bautista Rojas. “Serving those who serve gives me joy.”

Bautista Rojas joined the Navy in 2006 to pledge his service to those he looks up to most, military servicemembers.

Bautista Rojas’ main mission is to help Sailors maintain combat readiness and help them deal with stress they may have because of work or issues with their family.

“There are three important factors in our lives: physical condition, intellectual fitness, and spiritual fitness,” said Bautista Rojas. “They work together like a stool, you remove one leg and you’ll fall. I will work earnestly to provide spiritual guidance to those who seek it so they can continue on working and being productive Sailors.”

Sailors are excited to have a Catholic priest aboard to help them maintain their spiritual health while they’re away from home.

“Since I don’t have the comfort of my family or my parish priest back home, having a priest aboard Stennis reminds me that I have someone that I can knock on their door and they’ll be there for me without judging me,” said Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 3rd Class (AW/SW) Jose Jaen.

Having a chaplain aboard who can relate to Sailors religion of choice plays a key role in morale, but with the shortage of Catholic priests in the Navy it is difficult to have one at every command.

“There are very few Catholic chaplains in the Navy and we have to serve with Marines and the Coast Guard as well,” said Bautista Rojas.

Because of the shortage of priests, Bautista Rojas has never worked with Sailors, but he relishes the opportunity to work with more than 6,000 of them.

“I have orders to the Stennis, but I’m also here to provide support to the strike group,” said Bautista Rojas.”

The Navy prides itself on the diversity of its forces, yet diversity is not limited to race or gender; it includes religion as well and with Bautista-Rojas’ arrival Sailors now have more religious options to help them through the struggles deployment may bring.

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